Recently, there have been a lot of articles in the newspaper and on the internet about teachers’ unions and their negotiating tactics. One of the articles I read that struck me the most refers to a union that is in the middle of renegotiating their contract, which expired in 2010. That means that for the past 2-3 years, the teachers’ union and the school board have been at odds over salaries, workload, and a lot of other issues. In response to the school board’s “unreasonable” requests, the union has directed its members to take numerous so-called “job actions”. These include (but are not limited to): leaving school the moment they are contractually allowed to do so at the end of the day, not coming in early or staying after school to give extra help to students, and (most controversially) not writing recommendation letters for students applying to college.
Now, I understand that sometimes there is a temptation to use less-than-desireable tactics in a negotiation, particularly in a union negotiation. However, is it really fair to allow “adult problems” and issues outside of the classroom to affect what is going on inside the classroom? Conversely, is it fair to judge and look down on teachers for not doing extra, unpaid work, when in any other job field that would be a perfectly acceptable negotiating tactic?
This dilemma has been a source of a great deal of internal conflict, personally, because I both empathize with and abhor tactics used by both sides. I can fully sympathize with the teachers, who just want to be compensated fairly and are using one of the only negotiating tools at their disposal. However, I really cannot get past the fact that in the process of making a political statement, the teachers are creating the potential for serious educational malpractice towards their students. A very wise professor once told me that the first rule any teacher should follow is, “Do no harm.” Are these teachers following that rule?
The more I think about it, the more I believe that this is a situation where there really is not a “right” side and a “wrong” side. No cut-and-dry, black-and-white answer. Both sides are clouded in gray. Whether those clouds will lift in favor of a solution that is most beneficial for students remains to be seen.
******Please share your thoughts and comments on this thought-provoking issue with us below.
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